Kotter defines leadership

Kotter defines leadership

Introduction :

Kotter defines leadership as the ability to inspire confidence and support among the people who are needed to achieve worthwhile goals (Kotter 1990). There have been many models developed at different point in time to encapsulate the leader's traits, behaviour and characteristics in to a framework. This essay illustrates one such leader, who revolutionized the corporate culture in India, and transformational leadership model to analyse his leadership roles , his use of power , and finally draw a logical conclusion about leader behaviour and effectiveness taking into account the situation which defined his leadership roles

Leadership profile:

Mr. Murthy was founder and the chef mentor of Infosys. In 1981, he founded Infosys with six of his friends and he was in charge till 2002. He managed Infosys for 21 years and now, Infosys has become a house hold name in India and a beacon of India's growth in the Information Technology (IT) domain. He started the firm in an closed Indian economy which does not encourage foreign investment hence Mr. Murthy built his firm in a very tough environment this clearly shows that he never lost focus on his vision to lead Infosys to a new era. (Infosys 2006)

So when the economy opened up in the 1991, he adapted to the change and Mr. Murthy articulated, designed and implemented the ‘Global Delivery Model' which has become the foundation for the huge success in IT services outsourcing from India. (Forbes 2009).As his model helped India to gain billions of dollar in IT export, as he played a mentor role to guide and setup clear pathway .Because of his success he is highly ranked among the highly innovative global business leaders in this era.(Times 2005)

In Infosys, he believed that motivation is the best and easy way to impart confidence in his employees, hence he introducing many technical and leadership programs, to shape the future of Infosys. Infosys holds the largest training facility in Asia for technical and business studies, held by a private organisation. Because of these programs Infosys has become one of the most innovative firms in the world by providing quality technical solutions. His initiatives to motivate learning have placed him among the most admired CEO's list in this decade. (The Economist 2005)

Mr. Murthy always believed in values that could improve the situation of less fortunate people .He is part of many charity initiatives in India ,one such initiative in Infosys is "SNEHAM", which helps educate rural students and even donate them with used computers. He is also part of many government projects to improve the infrastructure, education and IT sector in the country. As recognition for his service he was awarded an highest Indian civilian awards called “Padma Shri” and “Padma Vibhushan”. (India Daily 2008)

He was the very first leader to impart strict corporate governance in India, plagued by corruption. He always struck to ethical leadership and has strong believes in moral code of conduct. Mr. Murthy's greatest contribution to Indian business is not the creation of Infosys, one of India's most successful companies. It is the creation of a “possibility” that people from humble backgrounds can create multi-billion dollar companies only on the basis of a vision, passion and hard work. Because of his values ,he is highly respected by the international business leadership community and hence he holds different ‘Board of Directors' and guest lecturer post in highly respected business schools like INSEAD, Wharton and Harvard, to impart his values and believes to future business leaders. (Economic times 2007)

Leadership model:

Burns (1978;citied in Bass et al. 2006) clearly defined transformational leaders are those who stimulate and inspire followers to both produce extraordinary outcomes and in process, and develop their own leadership qualities by responding to individual followers needs, by empowering them, and by aligning the goals and objectives of the individual followers, leaders and the larger organisation.

According to Hater et al. (1988 , Tichy & Devanna 1990) transformation takes place by improving people's awareness and making sure that they get a larger picture of what they can achieve. This can be backed up by helping people think beyond self interest so that they find self-fulfilment in the work they do. This is not as easy as it sounds as it requires years to build the thrust in the first place. Another important issue for the transformational leader is to help people understand the need for change in the first place this can be enforced by inducing the sense of urgency and commitment to the common cause. Without these the focus will be lost in a long run hence for all these aspects to be successful, the transformational leader must adapt a long time and broader perceptive to handle organisational issues.

Key qualities of transformational leader:

Avolio et al. (1991) states that a model that states the skills of transformational leaders can be classified into four categories and are known as "Four I's"

Individualised consideration:

Transformational leaders pay attention to the individual employee and his/her needs rather than treating all followers alike and as having the same needs. Individual consideration as a feature of a transformational leader is reduced to the ability of individual analysis of followers .Namely, inclusion of followers into the transformation process of an organization implies the need to diagnose their wishes, needs, values and abilities in the right way.(Avolio et al.1991).

Intellectual stimulation:

An intellectually stimulating leader helps people to think about "old" problems in new ways and to use reasoning and evidence rather than unsupported opinion to solve such problems (Avolio et al.1991). Intellectual stimulation, involves arousing and changing followers' awareness of problems and their capacity to solve those problems (Bono and Judge 2004).

Inspirational motivation:

Inspirational motivation is the ability of transformational leadership, which qualifies a leader as a figure, which inspires and motivates the followers to appropriate behaviour by providing meaning and challenge. Such behaviour includes implicitly showing enthusiasm and optimism of followers, stimulating team work, pointing out positive results, advantages, emphasizing aims and stimulating followers. (Simic 1999).

Idealised influence:

It means serving as appositive role model to a follower by “walking the talk”. This can only be built by imparting confidence in the leader, which forms the basis for accepting radical change in organization. Without such confidence in the leader, that is, in his motives and aims, an attempt to redirect the organization may cause great resistance. (Simic 1999). When followers observe their leader achieving desired results, the followers are more likely to want to emulate the leader (Avolio et al. 1991).

As Mr Murthy built Infosys by making sure this goals are aligned to the followers aspirations and made sure they all reached their goals, transformational model will be a good frame work to analyse his leadership roles.

Analysis of leader:

According to Spranger (1928; citied in Bruno et al. 2007) values are the constellation of likes, dislikes, viewpoints, inner inclinations, rational and irrational judgments, prejudices, and association patterns that determine a person's view of the world. Mr Murthy always believed in moral and ethical values, most of the values were induced by his father, Mr. Ramarao. Studies made by Chang et al. (2008) clearly point that the leadership behaviour is influenced by personal values of the leader. Ethical values and practices in Infosys though didn't seem very relevant to run a business in a country, corrupted at all government levels; Strangely seemed very relevant when Infosys opened its business to different foreign projects. Most of foreign clients invested because they believed in Mr. Murthy's values and were confident that the external environment will not affect the integrity of the firm.

Leader-Member Exchange theory explains that a leader develop a vertical exchange relationship over time with followers, in which the two parties influence one another. Only when there is a positive correlation a transformational leader will be able to deliver his promises without any obstacles. (Carter et al., 2008).Mr. Murthy understood that only when an efficient communication channel is set up between him and his followers ,conflict of interests will be reduced and he could efficiently focus on his objectives. Hence he spent a lot of his time to “Improve people's awareness”, he made different organisational announcements to communicate the reality of the situation .He made sure he not only communicated about the opportunities that awaited the employees for their quality work and the reward that awaited them, but also the threats they will be facing in the future, so that they are well prepared to face it. (Indian Express, 1995)

Mr Murthy famous quote, “I keep telling them that my assets are not the buildings, building or the foreign contracts but my employees” clearly explains his “Individualised consideration”behaviour. Even though Infosys was a big organisation, Mr. Murthy would interact with young recruits to motivate them and giving them hopes that they could make a difference. In 1990's the turnover rate was around 11% when compared to industrial standard of 25% and about 80% of the middle and senior level executives were promoted from within the organisation. These are the clear implications of the genuine and close relation he had with his employees during his span as the chief mentor of Infosys. (Financial express, 2003)

Mr Murthy believed that,“The most powerful style of leadership is by example”. Hence he was always did what he told and stuck to it, which is the perfect definition of “Idealised influence” leadership behaviour. He engaged in many programs aimed to build confidence in his employees and to reaffirm that his values, will drive the firm to the right path to glory. Mr. Murthy is not one of those typical corporate bosses. He does not flaunt any costly suits, flashy automobiles. He is quiet, unassuming, humble, soft-spoken and much like the elderly man living next door. But the results he produced were outstanding and hence many of his followers started to emulate his characteristics. (Indian Express, 2005)

Mr. Murthy faced different challenges during his tenure, but to build a highly motivated workforce from such culturally diverse nation was one of his toughest. Mr. Murthy understood that cultural conflicts can be minimised by “Creating pluralism”, creating behaviour norms, values and policies neutral to all his employees. So the first step he took was to mandate English as the only official communication language in Infosys. The next step he did was to make a “full structural integration”, to make sure there is zero correlation between cultural identify and job status. Hence he opposed the government regulation to provide reservations for minority community in Infosys (Cox 1991 & Murthy 2009 ).

Once he made sure that the cultural conflicts are neutralised Mr. Murthy made sure that he “helped people understand the need for change &sense of urgency and commitment”. Mr. Murthy delivered the message, “Progress is often equal to the difference between mind and mindset.” This message reflects Mr. Murthy's intention of building sense of commitment to change which will result in progress. For instance during the 1980's there was very little growth in India and so in 1987 Infosys engaged in a joint venture with KSA , an American firm and it was the first ever Indo-American joint venture to export software . This contract was a most crucial for the rapid growth of Infosys in later years. Mr. Murthy commented that, “For long term success you need to need to surround yourself with people smarter than you”. This statement clearly states that he made sure that his followers are provided with state of the art facilities to continue their successful journey along with Infosys. And in addition to these, most of his business contracts are long term contracts .Hence these characteristics clearly shows his “Long time commitment and broader perceptive” leadership behaviour.( Hindu,2007)

“Obsolete innovations before the competition do it for you “is one of his golden rule. Infosys is one the first firm to invest in educational facilities to improve the intellectual values of its employees in India (as the Indian technical education system was not the best during the 1990's). He believed that the future of Infosys can only be sustained by highly talented work force. This “intellectual simulation” behaviour not only improved Infosys name as highly innovative firm but also served to retain the best talents as it worked as an empowering tool to reach greater heights.( Infosys ,2005)

Mr. Murthy set up Infosys Foundation, a philanthropic arm of the company in 1996. The foundation, run by his wife Sudha Naraya Murthy, is focussed on supporting and encouraging the underprivileged sections of society. And all the Infosys employees are volunteers in this charity organisation. He taught that this initiative will satisfy the intrinsic needs of fulfilment for his employees. And he was indirectly “helping people to think beyond self interest & help them with self-fulfilment”. (Indian Express, 1996)

Mr. Murthy is truly an inspirational figure; he displayed“Inspirational motivation” behaviour throughout his career. In 1988, power to one of his branch offices was cut down by the Bangalore government official. The main reason behind this was that Mr Murthy refused to pay the bribe to the concerned official's .But Mr Murthy stuck to his decision and used generators to run that office for months. There are incidents like these defined him as a inspirational leader, which in turn motivated his followers to stick to ethical mean at all cost. Because of this quality, he is one the most inspirational leader not only to his employees but also to everyone who believes in values and power in justice.( Indian Express, 2000)

Discussion on Power:

Atwater et al. (1996) study explains that a transformational leader acquires influence and power through being respected and admired by the group members. And that there is a positive correlation between with reward and legitimate power yet was unrelated to coercive power. This is absolutely true with Mr Murthy behaviour. According to Mr Murthy, “Performance leads to recognition. Recognition brings respect. Respect enhances power. Humility and grace in one's moments of power enhances dignity of an organization”. Hence he is one of the fine examples of one can use power positively, for instance when there was a slump in business after 2001 IT bubble burst, he didn't terminate even a single employee but instead used his reward and legitimate power to positively influence his employees to cope with the failure and work hard for the future. And due to his efforts Infosys regained its losses in just 2 years.( Murthy, 2009)

Other discussion on the model:

Mr. Murthy is an inspirational icon for most of people and he stressed the importance of ethical leadership and honest labour but he could have used his influence to make drastic change in the political culture in India. Mr. Murthy was voluntarily involved in many Indian government infrastructure projects in Bangalore; though he performed more than his expectations he never stood his ground, whenever he faced some heat from the local corrupt politicians. For instance in 2009, he resigned his chairmanship of Bangalore International Airport Ltd. (BIAL) in a huff, protesting against the former Prime Minister and Janata Dal(S) kingpin's public questioning of his role in getting the project moving. (Business standard, 2009). So if Mr. Murthy has been more proactive in dealing with this kind of situation, he would have been a great inspiration for educated people of India to actively participate in politics and make a difference.


Infosys, which was just a few hundred dollars worth firm in 1981, is a multibillion dollar enterprise now. In this journey, Mr. Murthy has played a pivotal role in terms of inspiring his followers to strive for their best and envisioning an optimal pathway to their achievements. (Infosys, 2005) Analysis of Mr. Murthy's leadership behaviour clearly explains that Mr. Murthy's roles have direct relevance to the transformational leadership model, he inspired his followers and realigned his goals to suit their needs and provided them with a healthy life style. He is one of those rare personalities whose behaviour was not influenced by his power but by his values. Though he was not a flamboyant and a big charismatic personality he made sure that ‘Hope' in truth, justice and ethics is not lost. He is a truly inspirational for anyone who is willing to work hard and smart towards their goal in this dynamic corporate world .He is one of the living legends who defined odds and hence he will be making headlines in the leadership journals for years to come.

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